A Company’s Best Use of Social Media is Support, Service




You probably didn’t know it but some companies think – actually they’re positive – that social media was developed just to give them a fast track to sales … lots of sales. They even like the idea of social engagement because they feel it’s a way to get out ahead of the pack and have everyone follow them! Once they’re in the lead, they’ll push harder to sell more and more of their products. It’s simple logic — inform you, share information with you, nudge you toward the checkout counter … faster. Oh yes, they’d also like you to share that information with friends and acquaintances. The more people who know it, the more people will buy it.

Business Shift – Industry executives know social media has changed the way they reach and interact with consumers; but according to other studies, consumers don’t feel there is a strong connection or that they are any more loyal to the firm because of social media marketing. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s what keeps business motors running and the global economy’s tires on the track.

Talk to Me
If you have something nice to say about them, they’ll talk with you for a little bit but they probably only half-listen and look beyond you.Just post it … Like it … Tweet it. They’ll add them to their report(s) and move on. Admit it though, you aren’t really interested in having a conversation with “a brand.”  Well yes, you’d like to talk to someone (anyone) when you have an issue, problem or question. Unfortunately, most of the marketers who brag about their likes, followers and retweets won’t have a thing to do with those conversations.

Conversations Take Two – While marketing and communications like to count the volume of Likes and posts they achieve, customers are increasingly frustrated because when they post or Tweet a question or problem, they report response/assistance is sorely lacking. They miss the key point of business … it’s more profitable to keep an existing customer than to go scraping around social media looking for a new one … a lot more profitable. But for customers, the key ingredients to the company developing and expanding that brand loyalty is support and answering questions! Of course, the people who overlook questions probably think the same thing Charley did when he said, “What about a little sugar in his gas tank? That’ll fix him.”

Tweets are Fast
When it comes to social media, marketing and communications folks love Twitter. It’s a super fast way to get their message out and trumpet a simple message (with only140 characters, you don’t have time to be complex).Face it, it’s a lot more fun than doing something boring like listening to customers whine.

Loyalty Takes Work – Instead of engaging the customer, provide him/her fast, easy access to resources, information and assistance. To expand customer loyalty, establish a user council and self-help program that enables customers to help each other. The companies that eat, drink and sleep customer service are also the successful ones; but that fact is glossed over by too many marketing organizations.

Just Watching
Many organizations say monitoring all of the social media and handling every “little” question or comment is expensive and they just can’t see a return on the investment. Frank Capu saw the issue and said, “If you get sick, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” After all, they point out, they already have a customer support line and answer customer emails. Even the most technically savvy individual can be overwhelmed by a company’s websites, online resources and call center hurdles. At the very least, that leads to frustration (ask your customer support people how often there is a happy voice on the other end) and downright irritation with the company and the product that was purchased. Providing Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other social media pages for each of your products can make customers’ lives easier.

Help Myself – When web pages, how-to videos and information documentation are readily available, customers often prefer to solve/resolve an issue themselves with the information that is available round-the-clock, round-the-calendar. If that fails, they want to immediately be put in contact with a member of the support team who can instantly have access to all of the customer’s information and past activities. Constantly repeating the same information over and over is frustrating at best. The idea is to get to customers where they already are, rather than make them hunt around and switch media to find assistance/answers.

Energetic Pit Crew
There’s a growing and healthy trend of adding community self-support as a pivotal part of the organization’s customer support activities that highlights customer experts who often provide answers faster than the support team because:
- They have encountered the same/similar issue in their work/play
- Speak a more common language

The actual user assistance strengthens the company’s relationship with these customers and frees up the company’s customer support team to tackle and resolve the really tough, really unusual issues that will arise. The value of an active user community working with the company’s customer support team can’t be underestimated when it comes to the development of workarounds, creative problem resolutions and an expanded knowledge base. Shortening the time between the problem/question and the resolution/answer not only makes for happier, more satisfied customers, it can also produce one of the strongest corporate assets you can have.

How good are they for the company/product? Frank Capu looked at the satisfied users and said, “People stay married because they want to, not because the doors are locked.” Think about it, you now have a dedicated pit crew of user experts you can go to for early product testing to ensure the product/solution delivers the customer satisfaction and performance people want at the outset.

Built-in Testers
These people can also provide the early user testimonials and references late adopters want before they commit. Of course, finding just the right, best user experts isn’t easy because simply counting their posts and their Tweeting volume isn’t enough.

Fly Free – Short and to the point, Tweets are increasingly used by people to voice their displeasure and problems. Sometimes there is no solution and the best thing the company representative can do is credibly apologize. It may not win a supporter, but it can neutralize the situation. Before you even approach them to be part of your community self-help program, you need to know their standing and credibility in their specific community. For example, if they are in the video industry, monitor the sites used by people in the specialty to evaluate the depth/breath of their responses and how they act/react in the forums. Believe it or not, there are people out there who simply like to see themselves talk, they like to be snarky with people who ask real dumb questions and have a proclivity to resort to profanity to show their superiority. Finding the members of the community who are application experts and knowledgeable supporters/users of your product, service, solution takes time, but it can have a tremendous return for the company and the customers.

But when you find them and make them part of your team, you’ve jump started your product launch even before someone drops the starter flag. If we’re talking about marketing and social media, why are we placing so much emphasis on customer support? The truth is the support team has more continuous conversations with customers than marketing, communications or sales do! Getting interested, committed end users/customers who are interested sharing their experience, expertise can make you look like a winner … every time. As Charley said, “You celebrate, I celebrate too.”

andym
About the author:
Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. Unable to hold a regular 9-5 job, he has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than ...


  

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